Past Simple

  • subject + verb + (e)d
    Example: She studied at Cambridge University.
  • subject + did not + verb
    Example: She didn't study at Cambridge University.
  • did + subject + verb?
    Example: Did she study at Cambridge University?

In English, for example, verbs such as study, call and work are regular, since they form their inflected parts by adding the typical endings -s, -ing and -ed, to give forms such as studied, called and worked. On the other hand, many verbs such as go, come and write are irregular, since some of their parts are not made according to the typical pattern: went (go), came (come), wrote (write).

Note: the verb be is irregular: I/he/she/it was; you/we/they were

The principal uses of past simple are listed below.

  • To refer to an action completed in the past at a definite time:
    • Yesterday I called my supervisor to apologize for not attending the last meeting.
    • Note: no time reference is necessary if it is already known:
    • Why did you miss the meeting? (in the story I just told you about)
  • To refer to a series of completed actions in the past:
    • I finished work, walked to the beach, and found a nice place to swim.
Past Simple
    • We often use words like next or then to indicate the sequence of events:
    • Then, I got a bus into the city centre and found a nice restaurant to eat in.
  • To talk about past habits:
    • I studied German when I was a child.
    • I went on a long bike ride every Saturday when I was at school.
    • Note: used to and would can also be used.
  • To refer to a long-term situation in the past which is no longer true:
    • He played for our team for 10 years.
Past Simple
    • People at that time believed that the Earth was the centre of the solar system.
    • Note: used to and would can also be used.

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